THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Endangered archives blog

3 posts categorized "Oral history"

27 October 2010

UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage

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Just a quick post to draw your attention to the fact that today is the UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, established to raise awareness of the value of audiovisual material , and the challenges we face in ensuring its preservation for current and future generations. The UNESCO web pages have more information about the day, including details of a programme of short films to be screened in Paris this evening in celebration.

EAP projects have digitised a range of audiovisual materials, documenting such varied performances and events as Chinese Dongjing performances, initiation rites for the Dagara Bagr cult of Northern Ghana and Southern Burkina Faso, records created by the East Timor Commission on Return, Truth and Reconciliation from 2002-2004, and recordings of North Indian Classical Music.

Alex

01 October 2010

Rescuing Dongjing Archives in Yunnan, China

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Over the past week I have started to catalogue project EAP012 Salvage and preservation of Dongjing archives in Yunnan, China: transcript, score, ritual and performance.

Dongjing refers to a body of Daoist and Confucian texts and traditional music scores. The songs can be performed unaccompanied or with instruments. As a practice it is thought to date back to the 15th century. Social, political and cultural factors have endangered the practice which is now mostly performed by communities in Yunnan province.

The collections copied by the EAP012 project contain a wealth of material including ritual texts, music scores and audio-visual recordings of Dongjing performances as well as oral history interviews. The following images are taken from Sanguan donging juan zhong, a sutra used during Dongjing activities, inscribed in 1911.

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Alex

21 April 2009

Shared histories

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The recent G20 summit meeting in London got me thinking about our interconnected world. The current economic troubles are shared on a global scale. With this meeting the G20 countries acknowledge joint responsibility for the solution, and for the future. This in turn led me to think about our interconnected past and our shared histories.

The idea of shared histories is used to reconcile the memories different individuals or groups have of a shared experience. For example, a more complete picture of slavery is given if it includes the memories of both black and white families living on plantations; a fuller picture of Empire is found by examining the stories from both indigenous peoples and colonial settlers. The idea of shared histories also enlarges the scope of a subject, event or period by allowing all participants a voice. For example, our understanding of the history of warfare has been expanded by adding the diaries, letters and other records of mothers, sisters, wives and sweethearts to those of soldiers and government units.

In this way shared histories are used to create a common memory of the past. Material copied by EAP projects has the potential to pay an important part in this process. The projects actively find and preserve historical records from local areas and countries. They also preserve the records of religious and political movements that span countries and centuries.

Here are two examples:

The records copied by EAP006 First Yap State Constitutional Convention audio tapes conversion project are of immense importance to the history of Yap Sate in Micronesia. These records also form part of the history of constitutional government in Oceania, and in the world. This project digitised audio recordings from the First Yap State Consitituional Convention held in 1982 to develop a constitutional framework by which they intended to be self-governing. A referendum followed with the majority of the citizens accepting the Constitution.

The records copied by EAP071 Archiving texts in the Sylhet Nagri script are important to the history of north-eastern Bengal because of their subject matter and because they represent a corpus of material written in a unique script. They are also significant for the history of writing and the history of printing in India. The script became a vehicle for popular culture and religion. The texts cover religious themes, social issues and popular stories.

Here is a page from Haribamsa, from the Khaunis Cakrabarti Collection. This text narrates the love story of Krisna and Radha, Hindu divinities.

Haribamsa By choosing to preserve and value a wide set of historical records the stock pile from which fuller histories can be written grows. The EAP allows items from the historical record to be found and examined by those whose local history and identity they record. It also makes these available to a wider audience thereby allowing more people to share in a wider understanding of history. And by sharing this history, perhaps to make it their own.